Upper Room KC Programs

Emotional Sensitivity and Your Child

Your child may not always be able accurately to express how they feel. So it’s on us as parents and educators to identify and address their emotions through the signs that they give us. That’s why Bethann Roitz with Upper Room’s Early Learning Center recently released some guidelines to help determine and manage emotional sensitivity with your child.

Emotionally Sensitive Children and their Temperament

  • Do you have emotionally charged children whose reactions are excessive?
  • Cry or upset over small things
  • Do they rarely get upset or express feelings?

Emotionally sensitivity is an inborn part of our temperament which consists of ten traits and makes children unique.  It is the ease or difficulty to which children respond emotionally to situations. The trait is measured by how tuned a child is to their feelings and, why some children do not seem to be aware of what they are feeling, appearing to be non-responsive to what they see around them.

A child may be aware of their own feelings, even to the point of being self-absorbed, while not aware of other people’s feelings, and vice versa.

Emotional Sensitivity – To One’s Self 

Is your child able to express clearly what they are feeling?

  • When watching a scary movie do they react “over the top”?
  • Do they cry often and have a hard time “letting things go”?
  • Do they get overly upset when someone disciplines, criticizes or comments negatively to them?

(No) 1                       2                      3                     4                     5 (Yes) Unaware of own feelings                                                         Feels Strongly

Higher scores indicate a child is more emotionally sensitive by showing hurt, sorrow, worry, embarrassment, fear, empathy or anger, straightforwardly or dramatically, than those who are less sensitive.  Parents can support children by;

  • Not dismissing their feelings, teach them to express their reactions in appropriate ways.
  • Let children share how they feel about every little thing.
  • Listen if they feel wrongs strongly, (treatment of siblings).
  • Do not take their intense emotions personally.
  • Wait, because they may hold on to feelings longer. Teach forgiveness so they learn to move on.
  • Be patient, they may be overwhelmed when they see strong emotions. Monitor TV and games that are frightening or sad.
  • Sensitive children may be more considerate and empathic.
  • As adults, they do well in careers in the helping professions.

Emotional Sensitivity, to others 

  • Does your child notice when others are upset or hurt?
  • Do they seem to “feel what others are feeling”?
  • Does your child show empathy or sympathy towards others who are upset?

(No) 1                    2                   3                   4                     5 (Yes)              Insensitive to others’ feelings                                      Emotionally tuned in

Lower responses may mean they are less sensitive; rarely upset or may not make a “big deal” about things. They may not be aware of others feelings and may be considered insensitive.

  • Help them identify feelings by naming and talking about them.
  • Understand that emotional sensitivity is a part of your children’s inborn temperament.
  • Avoid labeling; “whiner” or “cry-baby” or “selfish.”
  • Use positive words; “sensitive,” and “intense.”
  • Acknowledge temperament and help them to understand it.
  • Know their reactions/behaviors to avoid shaming.
  • Understand how your temperament fits or doesn’t fit with your child’s.
  • Let them know that you appreciate them and help them to feel good about who they are.
  • “You have very strong feelings.”
  • “You express yourself strongly.”
  • “You care a lot about other people.”
  • “You are aware of how others are feeling.”
  • “You can feel what you are feeling and then move on.”

By using these guidelines, we can better identify our child’s feelings and help them express themselves in a healthy way.

For more information on The Early Learning Center’s focus on education or to enroll your child in our program, visit our Early Learning Center page, or contact Bethann Roitz at broitz@upperroomkc.org


The Emotionally Sensitive Person by Karyn Hall, PhD
6 Things a Highly Sensitive Child Needs Most, by Daisy Gumin, Quiet Revolution

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